Wow, y’all. If you have been around the blog for a while but haven’t tapped into the sermons at 5twelve, now is the time. We’re beginning a series called, “Being Real: Authenticity over Hypocrisy.” Yesterday, Jurie teased out three types of hypocrisy exhibited by people in the church. In the coming weeks, the plan is to tease out more—not just about the problem of hypocrisy, but about how we Christians can live authentic lives of faith.
As our recent Sunday Survey revealed, hypocrisy is the primary reason that people leave the church… or never join. It was certainly a primary reason I left. I was reared in a very, very conservative, fundamentalist church. Picture the attitudes of the Pharisees and Saduccees in Jesus’ day, and you get very close to the attitudes I encountered there. We could quote, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” while still believing that the majority of the people around us (including devout Christians of other denominations) had very little hope of salvation. When a member of our congregation was “caught sinning,” the response was often to condemn and more-or-less banish them, either overtly or by shunning them until they left on their own.
I left that church tradition in 1996, but because I’d never seen a church environment where love is truly lived out, I left Christianity as well. I didn’t return until 2010. When I did return, it was because my mom, my daughter, and my dear friend (and now husband) loved me into it.
One of the comments on the Sunday Survey said, “I wish deeply for everyone involved in a church to pay attention to the words in their books… learn from that. Be better.” Another said, “As an outsider, my opinion is it’ll take relationships. People need to be truly great friends that make others want what they have. Christ was about relationships. We should be too!”
In yesterday’s sermon, Jurie gave three things Christians do that are viewed as hypocrisy, but for me, the second one stood out. He called it, “Making a way to God.” By that, he meant that we focus way too much on the hoops people have to jump through to get to God, rather than focusing on the fact that God made a way to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. If you tell people that God loves them unconditionally on the one hand, but say that they have to stop doing A, B, and C and start doing D, E, and F to be loved by Him, they’re going to call you a hypocrite. When I was a kid, I heard someone say, “Do you have to get clean to take a bath? No. In the same way, come to Jesus as a sinner and invite Him to make you clean.”
From the day I was born, I knew this kind of unconditional love in a way that many people don’t get to. My mom always said, “Love is an action, not a feeling,” and she did her best to live by those words. Here’s an example:
One Christmas, I was home for the holidays. My mom always confided in me, especially when something was stressing her out. A couple of my siblings tend to “pick up strays,” of both the animal and human variety, and this Christmas, one of their friends had nowhere to go. Now, lots of people are okay with inviting a lonely friend over for a holiday meal, but this guy was something else. He was unkempt, awkward, and possibly high. His behaviors were… unsettling. Mom confided in me that she wished she’d had more than a 12 hour notice that this guy would be showing up, and that he made her nervous.
Yet on Christmas day, here’s what happened… When this friend showed up, we were just about to open our stockings. As he joined us, Mom offered him a seat and handed him a stocking—a stocking of his own. It was filled with the same kinds of presents we were all opening. He was welcomed into the warmth and laughter (and chaos) of the family. He was offered a seat at the table and treated no differently (actually, probably better) than any of Mom’s “real children.” As festivities were winding down, this kid had tears in his eyes as he said, “Mrs. French, I don’t know how to thank you for letting me celebrate with your family. This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had.”
I saw this over and over when I was growing up. Whether Mom liked you or not… whether she agreed with your choices or not… when you walked into her house, you were one of the family. Mom wasn’t perfect (who is?), but in this respect, she got it right.
I left the church because of the contradiction between “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “We kinda really hate [insert ‘type of people’ here].” But because Mom showed me what unconditional love looks like, I came to Jesus later in my life. I allowed Him to woo me, through the Christ-like love of the people in my life.
As followers of the God Who is Love, may we remember what unconditional love looks like. May we eat with “tax collectors and sinners.” May we treat our neighbor as one of His Family, when they enter our doors. May we accept one another, messes and all, as people created in the Image of God, worthy of respect and love (regardless of whether that respect and love is reciprocated). May we remember that, “…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NIV).
Do you have a story of life change? We would love to hear it. Let us hear how God is transforming your life and the lives of those around you through the power of Christ. Drop us a line at [email protected] or submit a form using the button below! We’ll get in touch and work with you to share your story.